When it comes to penning a “hit,” some artists have the formula down to a science. There’s a slew of stars who make it to the top of the Billboard charts time and time again, and it’s no coincidence. Behind every big hit, there’s a talented writer behind it. And while sometimes musicians enlist writers to pen their music for them, it’s even more impressive when an artist writes their own tunes. In a time where fans value authenticity from celebrities more than ever, a lot of artists do write their own music.
Some artists are so skilled when it comes to stringing verses together, they've made a career penning songs for other artists. For example, Julia Michaels has written tons of hits including Selena Gomez's "Bad Liar." She's not the only superstar making a side hustle out of writing for others. Sia has written for Britney Spears and Shakira, while Jessie J helped write the masterpiece that is Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA."
When it comes to artists who write their own music, you might be surprised by who makes the list. These are all the singers who prefer to hit the studio solo, or, at least, have a hand in co-writing their songs — plus, some of their most popular self-written tracks.
1. Taylor Swift
In November 2014, she told Time, "In the beginning, I liked to think that we were all on the same playing field. And then it became pretty obvious to me that when you have people sort of questioning the validity of a female songwriter."
Popular Self-Written Song: "Our Song"
2. Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran's dreamy voice isn't the only thing he's got going for him. In addition to singing and writing his own songs, he's penned numerous hits for others. Sheeran is the man behind songs like One Directions "Little Things," and Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself."
Popular Self-Written Song: "Perfect"
3. Camila Cabello
She may not have had full creative control during her time in Fifth Harmony, but these days, it's Cabello's way or the highway. She wrote every song on her solo debut album, Camila.
Popular Self-Written Song: "Consequences"
4. Shawn Mendes
Mendes' manager Andrew Gertler (who also discovered Mendes), praised his songwriting skills in an April 2016 interview with Rolling Stone. “From the very beginning, he was set on the fact that he was going to write his own music and that he was a songwriter," he said.
Popular Self-Written Song: "Treat You Better"
When it came to 2019's, Map of the Soul: Persona, at least one member of the group contributed to each song, and the same can be said for the rest of their albums.
RM, in particular, writes a lot of the lyrics, since as he's most well-versed in English and Korean. Actually, RM was inspired to write BTS' record-setting single "Spring Day" during a trip he took to the park. The personal song wound up becoming the longest charting song ever on Korea's Melon chart.
6. Justin Bieber
7. Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels is recording her own songs these days, but her first major credits were with Fifth Harmony and Demi Lovato hits like "Miss Movin' On" and "Fire Starter." Whether it's for herself or another artist, Michaels says songwriting is a necessary part of her artistry.
“I have to write. I physically, for my being, for my sanity, have to write songs," she told The Fader.
Popular Self-Written Song: "Issues"
From day one, Halsey has written her own music, and some intensely personal songs at that. In fact, she's already won awards for her songwriting skills. In 2019, Halsey received the Hal David Starlight Award during the Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in New York City.
Popular Self-Written Song: "You Should Be Sad"
You better believe Adele is the force behind all her heartbreaking ballads. As emotional as they are for fans to hear, they're the same way for her. “That’s how I know that I’ve written a good song for myself — it’s when I start crying," she told the New York Times in November 2015.
Popular Self-Written Song: "Hello"
10. Lady Gaga
In an interview with Apple’s Beats 1 radio, Lady Gaga made it clear: she's the driving force behind her music. "I write all my own music. I spend hours and hours a day in the studio, I’m a producer, I’m a writer. What I do is different," she said.
Popular Self-Written Song: "Poker Face"
11. Sam Smith
Sam Smith has confessed to facing writer's block in the past, particularly on his LP The Thrill of it All.
“For the first two months, I really struggled,” he told Rolling Stone in October 2017. He had trouble writing about himself, he adds, “because I realized I didn’t actually like myself a lot.”
Popular Self-Written Song: "Too Good At Goodbyes"
Don't be fooled by her superfluous hits like "Tik Tok." Kesha is a seasoned songwriter. She's also written songs for other artists, like Miley Cyrus' "The Time Of Our Lives."
Popular Self-Written Song: "Your Love Is My Drug"
Lorde's ultra-personal hits are definitely inspired by her own life. In June 2017, she chatted with Vanity Fair, explaining, “I’m an introvert, a writer— just trying to translate what’s inside my chest.”
Popular Self-Written Song: "Royals"
14. Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding is such a talented songwriter, she's in high-demand for other artists. However, she'd much rather focus on putting out tracks of her own. In June 2010, she told The Daily Record, "I don't think I'll write for anyone again."
Popular Self-Written Song: "Lights"
15. Meghan Trainor
Trainor takes pride in her songwriter status. In November 2015, she spoke to Zach Sang on why songwriting is so important to her.
When asked what she thinks of artists who use ghostwriters to write their tunes, Trainor expressed how much she dislikes the practice. "Coming from a songwriter world, I was going to do it, I was going to be that ghostwriter that wrote for these big artists and that never got credit," she said.
Popular Self-Written Song: "All About That Bass"
16. Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris is so proud of his music that he clapped back at rumors claiming he had a ghost producer. In August 2014, he took to Twitter saying, "Honest to God nothing more annoying than people telling me i have a ghost producer smh." Harris' tweet has since been deleted.
Popular Self-Written Song: "I Need Your Love"
17. Mariah Carey
While a majority of pop artists get a helping hand in writing their songs, Queen Mimi set the record straight in 2005.
When chatting with Variety, she said, “I’ve always been a songwriter first, even with the first demo I had. They were my songs." She actually wrote her biggest hit ever, "All I Want for Christmas is You" in 15 minutes.
Popular Self-Written Song: "All I Want For Christmas Is You"